By Vishwamithra –
Gone are the days of the dreaded cold war. Ever since the cessation of the World War2 (WW2), the global marketplace became a playground for arms dealers financed by the then two super powers, United States of America (USA) and Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the eventual victors of WW2. On May 7, 1945 the German Instrument of Surrender became a binding legal document that effected the extinction of Nazi Germany and ended World War2 in Europe. Yet, the USA, under the pretext of putting an end to Japanese aggression, which was still continuing after May 7, unleashed the most destructive manmade weapon in history. They dropped the atom bomb on Japan. Men, women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki became the most unfortunate victims of this maddening experiment.
But this American exclusivity, sole ownership of the Atom Bomb, did not last long. ‘Eight sovereign states have publicly announced successful detonation of nuclear weapons. Five are considered to be nuclear-weapon states under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are the United States, Russia (the successor state to the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and China. Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties to the Treaty have conducted overt nuclear tests, namely India, Pakistan, and North Korea. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003.
In addition, both South Africa and Israel are also generally understood to have nuclear weapons but do not acknowledge it, maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity, and are not known definitively to have conducted a nuclear test’ ( Source: Wikipedia). Of the first eight members of the ‘Nuclear Club’, four (4) are situated in the Asian continent. China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. India is our closest neighbor and Pakistan is just on the other side of India. A very nervous geographical location indeed.
China realizes this strategic significance; so do India and Pakistan. China’s approach to twenty first century’s global strategic diplomacy and its use and abuse has been exceedingly aggressive. That increased aggression had brought them to the doorstep of the previous Rajapaksa regime and with Nandasena Rajapaksa as President now, they seem to be well entrenched inside the ‘Darmadveepa’. Colombo Port City, unfortunately for Sri Lanka, is the bait in waiting for a hungry Sri Lankan powerhouse that is the Rajapaksas. The Rajapaksas, instead of just being satisfied by taking the bait by itself, chose to swallow the hook, line and the sinker too.
Having been insensitive to geopolitical rationalities, being unknowledgeable of the stark realities of the sensitivities of our closest neighbor, India, and being thoroughly ill-equipped to confront head-on potentially explosive international affairs, Sri Lanka has walked into a landmine of obligations with their eyes and ears wide open and mouths shut! They are essentially tied up with a grossly unfair bipartisan relationship with China whose global ambitions have been more than obvious in the past two decades. No country is eager to help another without expecting anything in return. It’s human nature. Countries can claim to have been blessed with enormous natural resources; they could be blessed with natural sea boundaries or land borders; they may claim to have an ancient past whilst some are relatively new. But all countries, rich or poor, new or ancient, are inhabited and ruled by human beings who ultimately control all affairs relating their land. Quid pro quo is part and parcel of any transactional relationships which in essence exist amongst nations.
In such a predictable and crystal-clear context, we cannot be so naïve to expect China to extend her benevolent arm and render assistance, financial or otherwise, with no return unto herself. It does not work that way. However, the mere fact that the strong one is extending a hand to the weak one, but yet expects something in return which is disproportionately larger than one would assume in such a needy hour is a totally different dynamic altogether. This is precisely where skillful negotiations come into play. Skillful negotiating is an art developed by skillful people; it is an art as old as civilization itself. Wars are averted, conflicts are defused and competition made fair and just when reinforced by skillful negotiation. This is where the Rajapaksa cabal is found to be either woefully inadequate or cynically insensitive.
Nandasena and his Rajapaksa cabal have failed the country. They did introduce some massive development schemes such as Mattala Airport, Hambantota Harbor and Colombo Port City. Their failure essentially resides in the terms on which such massive schemes were negotiated; the eventual funding for those schemes have allegedly come via even more massive payoffs paid to the cabal. Apparently they never hesitated to sell the country’s sovereignty to the funding country as long as the cabal is kept in power and funded for their extravagant lifestyles. It may read utterly bizarre and untrue, but the very haste with which the various events are being manipulated by the government party point to another chain of commands emanating from the cabal leadership at the behest of the lending country, China.
These are the guys who initiated the so-called paada yaatras (marching on streets) when the United National Party (UNP) government sought foreign funding assistance from the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Economic Community (EEC). One cannot solicit bribes and payoffs from these international funding institutions. But China is different. She has shown an unmistakable propensity to combine their lucrative funding to an exclusive geopolitical agenda. Ceylon is located in the famous Silk Route. The Silk Route was a historic trade route that dated from the second century B.C. until the 14th century A.D. It stretched from Asia to the Mediterranean, traversing China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greece, and Italy. It was christened the Silk Route because of the heavy and extraordinary silk trading that took place during that period. Today that route is being exploited by a modern day super power that has nuclear teeth. That power with nuclear teeth is China.
In geopolitical terms, China’s predominance in the twenty first century is without any parallel; its belligerent economic invasions into the African continent and Asian neighbors have met with little resistance. Armed with overpowering economic superiority and seemingly unquenchable thirst for political dominance, China’s approach to a weaker neighbor is a way too underestimated. On the other hand, when one considers Sri Lanka’s precarious status amidst a devastating Covid surge, one is reminded of what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in his celebrated ‘One Day in Life of Ivan Denisovich’: “When you’re cold, don’t expect sympathy from someone who’s warm”.
It is unreal for Sri Lanka to expect anything less than abject cynicism from China. She will betray Sri Lanka without a shade of hesitancy if and when she, China, is confronted by India or America. Both America and India are two major players in this game of geopolitics in the Indian Subcontinent. In the twenty first century Sri Lanka vis-à-vis China would become what Cuba was to the USSR in 1962. And that day is not too far. Navigating the ship of State in these stormy waters is no mean task. But Sri Lanka does not seem to have a properly equipped ‘skipper’ at the helm.
The role that the social media is playing has an immeasurable value in this context. The world community, except a very few countries who had television, learnt about the Cuban Missile Crisis via newspapers and radio. Rallying people for or against a given cause is not all that hard in today’s media marketplace. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, inspiring leadership is totally absent today, especially in the political opposition. Then it’s up to the civilian men and women, with or without leadership, to rally the masses towards a common enemy, not the Rajapaksas, but the very political system that has been producing wretched politicians generation after generation. This unspeakable tragedy has to be ended, not tomorrow or day after, but today, now.
The context is clear. Every man and woman in the country must educate him or herself of the pros and cons of the Colombo Port City drama. We are not a country for sale. Whatever the price China wishes to offer, it cannot be as high as our sovereignty.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com